The Past Tense of Teach: Here’s What It Is and How to Use It

Learning a language’s grammatical concepts is arguably one of the most difficult things about learning any language.  For example, for anyone who has ever learned a foreign language before, you know how difficult it is to memorize verb conjugations, different forms of pronouns, lists of noun rules, and various other English grammar rules.  And if you have ever learned more than one other language, it can be very easy to get them confused.

Welcome to American English, a language that is considered to be one of the most difficult languages in the world to master due to the complexity of its rules and the fact that it actually breaks its own rules more often than not.  The exceptions often outnumber the rules, and it can be very hard to keep track of what is right and what is wrong, especially if you find yourself working with several different groups of people with their own colloquialisms or slangs. The English language lends itself to several common grammar mistakes that ESL beginners and experienced English speakers alike make often, especially when it comes to irregular verbs. Even English teachers can have a hard time, and they help others to learn English! 

In this article, let’s explore the infinitive verb “to teach,” learn its proper use, how to conjugate its past tense, look for its synonyms, and learn its etymology and context.  

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Is It Taught or Tought?

To first understand a word, its history, and how to use it properly, it is important to first define what it actually means.  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word teach can be defined as “to cause to know something” or “to guide the studies of.”  Some secondary definitions also denote the same meaning but are a bit more specific.  For example, it can also mean “to impart the knowledge of (a specific concept, such as Algebra) and “to conduct instruction regularly in,” such as in a school or in a lesson plan.  In all, there are ten different regularly accepted definitions of the verb “to teach” in both the transitive and intransitive forms.

The correct past tense form of the verb “to teach” is “taught.”  According to WordHippo, the third person singular is “teaches,” and both the past participle of teach and the simple past tense singular is taught.  The pronunciation of this English verb may seem daunting, but it is just pronounced “tot.”  So, in short, the past tense of the verb “to teach” is “taught” in almost every context.  We will discuss the context for this past tense verb later on in this article.  

What Is the Irregular Past Tense of Teach?

One of the reasons that the word “to teach” is so difficult to learn is that its past tense does not follow the typical rules for creating a past tense in English as regular verbs do.  Typically, the rule is that to create a past tense, you add “-d” or “-ed” to the end of a verb to create its past tense.  For example, “create” becomes “created,” “bake” becomes “baked,” and “cook” becomes “cooked,” in these standard verb forms.  

However, the past tense of teach is a complete transformation of the word.  Instead of adding -ed to make the word “teached,” the correct past tense is the word “taught,”  

What Type of Word Is Tough?

The word tough is actually an adjective to describe someone’s mental or physical ability to handle things.  It can also be used to describe something that is difficult to handle, fix, or work through.  It is sometimes confused with the word “taught” due to their similar spellings, but at the end of the day, the words are nothing alike.    

The History and Origin of the Word

One of the best ways to understand a word is to learn where it came from.  A word’s etymology can reveal a lot about the changes a word has gone through to get to where it is today in modern English.  According to, the word teach seems to get its etymology mostly from Old English.  It seems like quite a lot of verbs actually come to English through older European languages rather than some more ancient languages like Latin or Greek.  Most nouns in modern English seem to come from Latin or Greek.  

However, the verb “teach” is not like that.  The Old English that it originates from is the word “taecan,” which has a past tense “taehte.”  This is where the irregular form comes from in Modern English, and it explains the spelling being so different.  “Taecan” and “taehte” came from the Proto-Germanic language word “takijan,” which means “to show.”  Teaching and showing are very similar concepts, and other words in Old English have meanings like “to show, point out, declare, or demonstrate.”        

Examples of the Word in Context

Another great way to learn how to use a word is to explore the word being used correctly.  Either reading the word in its proper context or hearing someone else use it in conversation.  Here are some common examples of the word “to teach” (and its past tense, taught) in context:

  • “Are you going to teach three math classes this fall?  I’m not sure how we’re supposed to handle online teaching.”
  • “Have you been taught how to shave?  My dad is teaching me right now because I have a mustache already.”
  • “I love to teach others how to enjoy music and making music.  There’s just something about music that needs to be taught and spread.”

Synonyms for Teach

Finally, to really solidify a word into your vocabulary, it is useful to explore words with similar or same definitions.  The more words you know that can fit into a specific context, the easier it will be to remember which ones to use.  Here are some synonyms for the verb “to teach”:

  • Educate, a synonym for teach that has very academic connotations
  • Instruct, another word that means teach but can be a little more than academic in its scope
  • Coach, a word for teaching that is usually reserved for sports